[Completed] Fire's Promise [Ashes of the Ylan #1] [A Rama Empire novel]

"I thought you'd kill me," she croaked. "Not much honour if you cannot keep your promises."

Within the world of Convergera, lies the lands of Rama. Though the Rama Empire has long since been disbanded, the Capital still stands as a symbol of prosperity. The Antirian wars are over, but peace is soon disturbed as disaster strikes.

Sarashi is raised on the Wild Plains, but in a culture where freedom is everything, she is tied down by fear and expectations. Her people wants her to embrace her mother's legacy, her own fury screams for vengeance and her heart aches to belong. But when the war between the Sapphire Empire and the people of Rama flares up again, she'll have to make a choice between what she wants, and what is expected of her.

"Both standing on two legs, eyes level, the lion tried to push her into the ground. Her heart beat like never before as it stretched its neck over the spear to reach her face with its teeth. Pain made her dizzy as she growled back, a fiery rage star


43. Ch 6: Night Raid (Part 5 of 8)

The Wild Plains, close by White Breath Mountains

(1249 p. CP)


It was the last of the great fall markets, almost on the edge of winter's blade. But there was a special warmth in the air. A smile from the sun, bees buzzing around the last of the flowers blooming during the rains that were almost over, and bellboas standing tall with their pink crowns of blossoms. The river still breached its shores, dragonflies thrived and hovered in the air everywhere you looked.

Four tribes had come together, a day's travel from the mountains, and their tents stood close. Most were open with the last of the season's wares on display, their owners trading happily. Some sold soft pelts and hides. Others had beautiful cloths for sarons, saris and salkias, made from Remish silk and cotton, brought from beyond Torge and the mountains. Food, dried or spiced, pearls of bone and horn and glass, Torgian jewellery of gold and silver, weapons, threads, leather, horses and dogs. You could get anything on the market if you had to goods to trade, and since the Tribe of Black Mongoose was a caravan one, the same way the Wild Horses were horse keepers, there were wares from all the nearby countries. Though you could always count on the Mahayas to help you with the things necessary for survival, luxuries like these had to be brought from outside the plains, and paid for with bits or items.

Sarashi was looked at a stand selling intricate silver earrings.

She and her merry group had stolen a herd of horses from the imperial soldiers a month earlier, and traded them for golden bits with a Mahayan caravan going to Torge in preparation for the markets. They had had to keep most of the horses for both original and new members, and had gelded them all the first moment they got. Neuters were the only horses not of Ramera breed allowed on the plains, to protect the wild horses' finely hones genetics. Rayla, who had still needed a new ride, had chosen a thick bones and stubborn creature. The gelding had already bitten almost the entire group, and seemed determined to make life as difficult as possible for the other horses. Rayla, of course, refused to switch the horse for one with a milder temper, and had adoringly named the beast Windbag.

Sarashi had a nagging suspicion that the girl had only chosen that horrid creature, because she had seen it attempt to bite Sarashi, when they had first stolen it.

The young princess already had two earrings in her right ear, on the upper arch. She had a small golden ring in one hole, and a tiny ruby stud in the other. She was considering getting her left ear pierced too, turning a small silver earring between her fingers. It was engraved with something that looked like a water rose.

It's so like the ones in the gardens by Enshir's Castle. Funny. I can't remember my father's face, but I can remember the flowers.

“I really like the engraving on this one,” she admitted to the old lady in the stall. “How much?”

The old woman smiled crookedly. Her gums were toothless and her lips seemed to fall into her mouth, but her eyes were kind among their wrinkles. Sarashi was unsure of her tribe: The tattoo on her neck was obscured by time's effect on her skin.

“My son engraved that one,” the trader enriched her, her voice slightly woolly in quality. “So it is dear to me, but for two silver bits, it's yours.”

There went twenty silver bits to one gold, and Sarashi had divided the leftover profit from selling the horses evenly between her group members. After provisions had been bought, that meant that a silver and a half was all she had. She sighed and shook her head, showing the woman the small silver tablets. One square was twice as big as the other.

“I'm sorry,” she said regrettably. “Will you sell it for one and a half?”

The woman smiled at her, so her eyes disappeared in the layers of skin.

“I might go broke,” she said. “Maybe you have to trade?”

Sarashi held up both hands.

“Nothing, I'm afraid,” she laughed. Something about the old woman had her at ease, and on a sudden impulse she held up the bits again. “How about one and a half silver, and a smile?”

The old woman chuckled heartily.

“How about that ruby in your ear, and I'll throw in a silver ring to keep the hole from closing?” she replied.

The ruby earring had been a gift, so Sarashi shook her head.

“The gold ring and the bits for the water rose engraved, and the silver ring?” Sarashi offered instead.

The trader considered it for a bit, and then shook her head in surrender.

“Very well, but then I want that smile too, you hear me!”

They shook hands on a well made deal, Sarashi switched the gold ring from her ear with a silver one from the shop, and received the engraved one in return for the silver bits. She was about to leave the trader with a smile, when a familiar person came out of the old woman's tent.

Hia had changed little in the last year and a half. The three oval tattoos on her neck marked her tribe, her black hair was gathered in hundreds of thin braids, and her eyes were sharp. They widened when she saw Sarashi.

For the span of a few breaths, they looked at each other like two predators meeting on the plains.

Then Hia averted her eyes and lowered her head as she bowed.

“Hia of the Cheetahs,” Sarashi greeted her by name, nodding her head to acknowledge the show of respect.

“Your Highness,” Hia greeted her, her gaze lifting to meet Sarashi's again.

Sarashi smiled.

“Sun shines on merry meet,” she said softly. “How fares the tribe of the Cheetahs?”

“Sun is kind, our tribe is well,” Hia told her, her eyes flickering to the old woman. The elderly woman had not known whom she was bargaining with, for she bowed too now. “My grandmother, Eshet formerly of the Coyotes.”

“No wonder she bargains well then,” Saras hi said, nodding to the old woman. The coyotes were one of the caravan tribes, travelling the entire world of Convergera and not just the Wild Plains. They gathered in bands with bonded animals, with which they performed while others of their tribe traded for material goods. It might well have been a band of Coyotes who performed at Sarashi's sixth birthday, but she could not remember. That nagged her, for she remembered Mirca saying that the performers had helped her escape.

The woman flashed her a toothless smile.

“I bargain no better than my kitten here,” she said, reaching out to clap Hia's ankle. It was all she could reach from where she sat. “Raised her proper, my son did.”

“My father married a Torgian blacksmith,” Hia said, sending her grandmother a look of embarrassed disdain, albeit there was love in it too. “She smiths and he engraves. I chose to stay with Grammy.”

“We are not our parents,” Sarashi noted pointedly. She frowned at the memory of Hia's words the first time they met. The air itself seemed colder suddenly, and a cloud passed over the sun.

Hia had the decency to look ashamed.

“I reacted poorly at the Wild Horses,” she said, meeting Sarashi's eyes with her head held high. “I apologise.”

“You reacted poorly,” Sarashi agreed and faltered. “But you weren't wrong. People do expect me to lead, and if I don't, others will. Others who's concept of honour I do not agree with.”

Hia held a hand out, and Sarashi clasped it, both smiling now. Hia's hand felt very warm against her own.

“A bonded bird reached the market yesterday,” Hia told her. “I don't know if you've heard the news it brought?”

Sarashi shook her head.

“We only arrived today, though I suspect that the news will have been brought to us where we made camp. The others will tell me when I get back.”

“The Empire's soldiers are stacking wood and stone on their side of the river, where it borders Rossau county,” Hia explained. “There's rumours that they're building a bridge come summer.”

“Then there'd be no more safe winters.” Sarashi's lips were cold, her hands forming tense fists. Drops of rain landed on her nose and made her shake her head. “They'd be able to cross at all times.” More drops fell on the earth, and the grass swayed and dust rose.

“I wager-” the old woman said as it began to pour. “If that isn't the idea.”

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